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E00763: Prudentius in his Latin Crowns of the Martyrs (Peristephanon), in a poem on the martyrdom of *Emeterius and Celidonius (soldiers and martyrs of Calahorra, S00410), written c. 400 in Calahorra (northern Spain) tells of a soldier who stole the acts of martyrdom of Emeterius and Celidonius, so that their cult did not spread.

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posted on 2015-10-10, 00:00 authored by mtycner
Liber Peristephanon, Poem I.73-81

Prudentius recounts the martyrdom of Emeterius and Chelidonius, and adds:

O uetustatis silentis obsoleta obliuio!
Inuidentur ista nobis fama et ipsa extinguitur,
75 chartulas blasfemus olim nam satelles abstulit,

ne tenacibus libellis erudita saecula
ordinem tempus modumque passionis proditum
dulcibus linguis per aures posterorum spargerent.

Hoc tamen solum uetusta subtrahunt silentia,
80 iugibus longum catenis an capillum pauerint,
quo uiros dolore tortor quaue pompa ornauerit.

'Alas for what is forgotten and lost to knowledge in the silence of the olden time! We are denied the facts about these matters, the very tradition is destroyed, for long ago an abusive soldier of the guard took away the records, lest generations, taught by documents that held the memory secure, should make public the details, the time and manner of their martyrdom, and spread them abroad in sweet speech for posterity to hear. Yet all that the silence of the old days takes from us is the knowledge whether their hair grew long with constant imprisonment, and what pains the tormentor laid on the heroes, or rather with what triumph he furnished them.'

Text: Cunningham 1966: 254. Translation: Thomson 1953, 104-105, lightly adapted.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Emeterius and Celidonius, soldier martyrs of Calahorra (Spain), ob.? : S00410

Type of Evidence

Literary - Poems Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Iberian Peninsula

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Calahorra Osset Osset Osen (castrum) Osser castrum

Major author/Major anonymous work


Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Scepticism/rejection of the cult of saints

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives



Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (348–after 405) was a Christian aristocrat from Calahorra in the Spanish province of Tarraconensis. He was a high official in the imperial bureaucracy in Rome, but withdrew from public life, returned to Calahorra, and dedicated himself to the service and celebration of God. Most of what we know about his biography comes from the preface to the ensemble of his works, which can be reliably dated to 404 (Cunningham 1966, 1-2), and other autobiographical remarks scattered throughout his works (for a detailed discussion, see Palmer 1989, 6-31). He composed several poetical works, amongst them the Peristephanon (literally, On the Crowns [of the Martyrs]), a collection of fourteen poems of different length describing martyrdoms of saints. We do not know exactly at which point in his literary career Prudentius wrote the preface (possibly at the very end, just before publication); for attempts at a precise dating of the Peristephanon, see Fux 2013, 9, n. 1. The poems in the Peristephanon, written in elegant classical metres, deal mainly with martyrs from Spain, but some of them are dedicated to saints of Rome, Africa and the East. The poems were widely read in the late antique and medieval West, and had a considerable influence on the diffusion of cult of the saints included. In later periods they were sometimes used as hymns in liturgical celebrations and had an impact on the development of the Spanish hymnody. Some indications in the poems suggest that they were written to commemorate the saints on their feast days, but Prudentius probably did not compose them for the liturgy of his time. Rather, they probably provided 'devotional reading matter for a cultured audience outside a church context' (Palmer 1989, 3; see also Chapter 3 in her book).


On the poem see E00761. Prudentius begins his collection of poems with the martyrdom of *Emeterius and Chelidonius. They are saints of his home city, Calahorra, but he seems to know very little about their life and death. In the quoted passage he tries to explain the lack of information on the saints by the intervention of a soldier who deliberately stole the acts of their martyrdom. It is interesting that Prudentius assumes that every martyrdom must have had a documentary account of it.


Editions of the Peristephanon: Cunningham, M.P., Prudentii Carmina (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 126; Turnhout: Brepols, 1966), 251-389. Bergman, J., Prudentius, Carmina (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 61; Vienna, 1926), 291-431. Translations of the Peristephanon: Eagan, C., Prudentius, Poems (Fathers of the Church 43; Washington D.C.: Catholic University Press, 1962), 95-280. English translation. Thomson, H.J., Prudentius, vol. 2 (Loeb Classical Library; London Cambridge, Mass: W. Heinemann; Harvard University Press, 1953), 98-345. Edition and English translation. Further reading: Fux, P.-Y., Prudence et les martyrs: hymnes et tragédie. Peristephanon 1. 3-4. 6-8. 10. Commentaire, (Fribourg: Academic Press, 2013). Malamud, M.A., A Poetics of Transformation: Prudentius and Classical Mythology (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989). Palmer, A.-M., Prudentius on the Martyrs (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989). Roberts, M., Poetry and the Cult of the Martyrs: The "Liber Peristephanon" of Prudentius (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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